By Miranda Massie on June 8, 2016
Thriving Campus features, testimonials, contributions and personal experiences linked to health and wellbeing from UBC staff.
First time UBC dads on how they Thrive
This month we are celebrating first time dads at UBC in a special Father’s Day feature. We asked new dads from across campus to share some tips on how they thrive while being parents to some pretty adorable kids!
Ali Mojdehi, Operations Manager in Campus Security
“When you become a parent, you become aware of feelings that you always knew you had but never fully felt them until that moment. Those feelings help me to thrive and develop as a father.”
Eli Puterman, Assistant Professor, School of Kinesiology
“Daily, my husband and I take a long walk with Zev in his stroller along the seawall. Not only are we taking care of our health (I am a health psychologist!), but we get the chance to be together, talk about our dreams, and show Zev every puppy, bird, and tree along the way.”
Jarrad Wiens, Admin and HR Manager, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology
“Try out a few different baby carriers and find one that’s comfortable. Going out with your baby and having your hands free is very liberating. Our friends were shocked to see us out for a drink just a few days after coming home from the hospital, thanks to our trusty carrier.”
Matt Dolf, Director, Strategic Support, Wellbeing at UBC
“I remind myself to be completely present with our daughter when I spend time with her. No phones, no tv, no distracted thoughts… just really focus on her expressions and engage fully in whatever we are doing together.”
On June 19, be sure to say a big thank you in recognition of all of the dads, parents and father figures out there!
By Miranda Massie on June 3, 2015
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”– George Bernard Shaw
Summer is on the horizon and this time of year is always a nostalgic one for me. I am flooded with memories of summers spent in the backyard, running through sprinklers, drinking Slurpees in the park and hanging out at the community pool. In my mind, summer is intrinsically linked with opportunities for fun.
Unfortunately, somewhere between the carefree summers of our childhood and our current states of adulthood, we have forgotten how to play. Where in the grown-up handbook does it say that we have to take ourselves seriously all of the time? Or that kids should be the ones to have all the fun?
We have a tendency as adults to self-edit our behaviour. We hold back as if seeking some unspoken permission before engaging in anything that might be considered childish or childlike. If the recent Staff and Faculty Sports Day on campus demonstrated anything to me, it is that we are all looking, if not craving, opportunities to infuse a bit more fun into our lives.
Aside from the very obvious benefit of play (it is fun!), there is a growing body of research linking play in adults to increased creativity, stress relief, more positive relationships, cooperation and improved social skills.
Benefits of Play
- Increased insight and creativity: Playfulness and a happy mood have been found to broaden our thoughts patterns allowing for new ways of thinking to emerge.
- Improved social connections: Play requires communication, collaboration and trust. The same skills that children are encouraged to build continue to grow and improve in adulthood.
- A thicker wallet: Laughter is free, as are many opportunities for fun and play. Make use of free or low-cost outdoor spaces, positive people in your life or community activities.
- A mental health boost: Endorphins released during exercise through play can increase feelings of well-being. Games and puzzles can also help improve brain function and protect against memory loss.
Opportunities for Play
- Start a games drawer in the office: Start collecting old games, puzzles and sports equipment to play during lunch or on a break.
- Host regular friendly competitions: Invite colleagues to compete in a hoola hoop competition or a Trivial Pursuit tournament.
- Play with children: Take the time to learn from the masters. Visit the trampoline gym, play make believe or watch a favourite childhood movie.
- Get outside: Play with a pet at the beach or invite friends to the park for bocce or Frisbee. Buy a popsicle and half it with a friend, or a stranger!
- Get creative: Pick up an adult colouring book (yes this is a thing) or have a craft night with friends.
I love finding an empty swing set and swinging as high as possible. I enjoy seeing my surroundings from a new perspective, feeling the wind blow through my hair and being carefree-if only for a few minutes. Once I come down and plant my feet on the ground again, something in me has changed. I feel a little bit lighter and a little bit brighter. Often the best feeling is knowing I was able to break with convention without worrying what the other adults around me might think.
This month I invite you to give yourself permission to have fun. Give yourself permission to be a little silly, to laugh until you cry, to run barefoot on the grass, to take a risk and to re-connect with the elements of your childhood that filled you with unabashed joy.
Throw caution to the wind and when a chance to play presents itself, take it!
All my best,
Check out this fun TED Talk about Creativity and Play!
By Colin Hearne on May 5, 2015
Stress is healthy, to a point. When faced with a perceived threat, the brain (specifically, the amygdala) alerts our bodies, causing hearts to pound, hands to sweat, and adrenal hormones to spike, prompting us to react. The operative word here is perceived. These days, the odds of being mauled by a sabre-tooth tiger may be nonexistent, yet the body doesn’t know that. It responds exactly the same way every time it gets the message, regardless of the trigger. This is when stress can become problematic.
Children and the Stress of Parenting
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), being a parent can be “one of life’s most joyful and rewarding experiences” but they also admit that it can be one of the most stressful things you ever do too – leading that little-almond shaped amygdala into thinking that sabre-tooth tigers are everywhere, all the time! But fear not, help is always available – the key is awareness and adopting stress –reduced parenting mechanisms.
Steps To Stress-Free Parenting
Recognize the Symptoms of Stress: Stress becomes a problem when you feel overwhelmed by the things that happen to you. You may feel “stressed out” when it seems there is too much to deal with all at once, and you are not sure how to handle it all. When you feel stressed, you usually have some physical symptoms. You can feel tired, get headaches, stomach upset or backache, clench your jaw or grind your teeth, develop skin rashes, have recurring colds or flu, have muscle spasms or nervous twitches, or have problems sleeping. Mental signs of stress include feeling pressured, having difficulty concentrating, being forgetful and having trouble making decisions. Emotional signs include feeling angry, frustrated, tense, anxious, or more aggressive than usual.
Cope: Coping with the stress of parenting starts with understanding what makes you feel stressed, learning to recognize the symptoms of too much stress, and learning some new ways of handling life’s problems. You may not always be able to tell exactly what is causing your emotional tension, but it is important to remind yourself that it is not your children’s fault. We all have reactions to life’s events which are based on our own personal histories. For the most part, we never completely understand the deep-down causes of all our feelings. What we must realize is that our feelings of stress come from inside ourselves and that we can learn to keep our stress reactions under control.
10 Tips to Help
- Make time for yourself and (your partner)– Reserve time each week for your own activities.
- Take care of your health with a good diet and regular exercise – Parents need a lot of energy to look after children of any age.
- Avoid fatigue- Go to bed earlier and take short naps when you can.
- Take a break from looking after the children – Help keep stress from building up. Ask for help from friends or relatives to take care of the children for a while. Exchange babysitting services with a neighbour, or hire a teenager, even for a short time once a week to get some time for yourself.
- Look for community programs for parents and children –They offer activities that are fun, other parents to talk with, and some even have babysitting.
- Talk to someone – Sharing your worries is a great stress reducer!
- Take a course – Look for parenting courses and groups in your community.
- Learn some ways of unwinding to manage the tension – Simple daily stretching exercises help relieve muscle tension. Vigorous walking, aerobics or sports are excellent ways for some people to unwind and work off tension; others find deep-breathing exercises are a fast, easy and effective way to control physical and mental tension.
- If you’re feeling pressured, tense or drawn out at the end of a busy day, say so – Tell your children calmly that you will be happy to give them some attention soon but first you need a short “quiet time” so that you can relax.
- Practice time management – Set aside time to spend with the children, time for yourself, and time for your spouse and/or friends. Learn to say “no” to requests that interfere with these important times. Cut down on outside activities that cause the family to feel rushed.
How UBC can help:
Through UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program provider, Shepell, you and your enrolled dependents have access to many services to assist you in your journey as a parent. Such services are:
1. Parenting Articles
With topics such as:
- Positively a parent: embracing the ups and downs of parenthood
- Parenting: What Does the Job Take?
- Your relationship with your children: friendship or friendly?
2. Family Support and Parental Advisory Service
Family Support consultants can provide information on topics such as:
- Parenting classes
- Schools, educational services and special needs programs
- Expectant and new parenting
3. Professional Counselling
At the heart of your EFAP is the professional counselling service. Caring professionals are dedicated to supporting you through the issues that may be impacting your life, including the stress of being a parent.
Accessing your EFAP
Get on the path to better health, and keep all sabre-tooth tiger thoughts at bay, by calling your Employee and Family Assistance Program provider, Shepell, at1-800-387-4765 or, for online information and resources, log on to www.workhealthlife.com
Confidential EFAP Services are available to you and your family members as part of your EFAP. There is no cost to use the service.
If you have any questions about EFAP, contact Colin Hearne, Health & Wellbeing Associate, at 604-827-3047 or firstname.lastname@example.org.